Editor’s note: This is the ninth and final in a series of articles on candidates for Pine Bluff mayor.
Carl A. Redus Jr. wants and believes he’s earned a third term as Pine Bluff’s mayor.
He says he’s running on a broad list of accomplishments that he rates as unequaled by any of his predecessors.
“My record is what’s important to me and I think to the citizens,” he said.
“I’m absolutely enthralled by my job,” Redus added. “This job is about day-to-day challenges, some small and some large, but I see challenges as opportunities. And I like opportunities.”
Redus, 62, thinks one of the major achievements of his administration is the city’s financial rebound that started in 2005, when he first took office. At the time, he said, Pine Bluff was on the brink of bankruptcy with just $258,000 in reserve funds. The city was still reeling from “misuse of public funds and moral, political and financial scandals.”
Today, as he approaches the end of his second four-year term, Redus expects Pine Bluff to have a $4 million stockpile at the close of 2012.
“And there have been no professional, political or financial scandals in my administration,” he said.
Redus primarily credits the financial healing to the public, especially the voters who approved a penny sales tax here in February 2011, with revenues earmarked for new jobs and community improvements. Although being mayor has, he said, allowed him to utilize managerial and developmental skills he acquired in a previous banking career, he rates the “private sector” as a “tremendous asset” and “a primary force” in the city’s gains.
He said the tax initiative is largely an effort by “the citizens of Pine Bluff and Jefferson County, who have agreed to share in the responsibility” of enabling a better future. A resulting bond issue combined with more that $30 million in grants received under Redus’ watch has aided in “numerous” enhancements. And more are ahead, he said.
Redus includes among his administration’s completed and ongoing highlights improvements involving Grider Field Airport, Saracen Landing, University Drive and University Park, a new district court building, South Olive Street (Highway 63) development, a new CASA (Committee Against Spouse Abuse) shelter, the police and fire departments, youth programs, historic preservation and downtown redevelopment, parks and recreation, transit services and streets and traffic control.
The fire department’s truck fleet is now state-of-the-art. Redus also pointed out that the police department has added 27 uniformed officers during his watch, giving the agency its strongest presence ever with 155 officers.
He’s defensive of Police Chief Brenda Davis-Jones, who has endured heavy criticism.
“Brenda Davis-Jones is committed to her job and the citizens of this city,” said the mayor. “A lot of the things said about her were for political posturing.”
Redus himself has been the subject of assorted complaints, including some hard Commercial editorials. He said he can live with criticism, but that doesn’t mean he welcomes or enjoys it.
“I always take criticism to heart,” he said, “but I don’t always take it personally.”
Redus said he understands he’s in a public job and criticism and questioning are to be expected, but he thinks that while many persons know him as mayor, most probably don’t realize that he’s sometimes quietly reflective.
“I take it as it comes with my team and supporters,” he said. “I have numerous listening posts. I’m an active listener myself, and I understand leaders are made, not born. I have a combination of influences, both locally and from afar.
“People who truly know me know my faith, my commitment. When I returned to Pine Bluff after working and residing elsewhere, I returned to my church (Barraque Street Missionary Baptist), where I learned to pray and was baptized as a child.”
Redus seems almost boastful of city workers.
“Pine Bluff’s city employees know that we are the leaders in providing services to our citizens,” he said. “I’m pleased to say that our employees understand and are active in their roles in helping to turn this community around. There are cities all over the nation filing bankruptcies, laying off workers, discontinuing community services. But here, we’ve been adding new services and improving those already in place while growing financially. I’m extremely proud that our workers are so devoted to our citizens.”
Redus said that prior to his command, municipal employees hadn’t had a cost-of-living adjustment in their wages for five year. Since, the workers’ base salaries have been raised to their highest level ever and all have received three raises.
“I’m not certain that citizens fully understand or respect their municipal employees’ dedication and productivity that I’ve seen in the last eight years,” he said.
Redus says he takes “nothing for granted and that’s why I’m campaigning so hard,” but he isn’t overly concerned that he has eight opponents — Kent Broughton, Peter F. Daniels Jr., Clarence Davis, Debe Hollingsworth, John James Jr., Alderman Steven Mays, Alderwoman Thelma Walker and Tim Whisenhunt.
“I’ve had multiple opponents before,” he said, “and I’ve got runoff experience.”
Redus said he made a promise to citizens to “see each and every one” of the “Penny for Progress” projects to completion and hopes to be able to keep his word.
“I want to be here for the unveiling of what I call ‘The Crown Jewel’ – the multipurpose community center and aquatic park,” he said of the proposed facility, which is slated for construction adjacent to the civic center along East 10th and 11th avenues. “We’ve got $5 million toward it and we’re working on getting the additional $3 million. We’re not far away from getting started on construction.
“That facility will take this community forward, together, and will serve our youth from a recreational, educational, spiritual and cultural perspective,” he continued. “I want to see that through. That’s my vision.”